Time Out.

A gentle breeze blows across the outdoor terrace as I sit underneath large stone columns, sipping iced coffee, scribbling in my journal, occasionally looking up from my writing to stare out and scan the hazy blue L.A. skyline, reminding myself where I am. It’s a Tuesday afternoon, the first day of fall, and I’ve reserved these few hours as a much-needed time out. To be with myself, to write, to wander and to daydream. It’s something I rarely do, but today, it seemed important.

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It’s amazing how protective I am of this time. How annoyed I am that the Getty Center should be as busy as it is on a weekday afternoon well past Labor Day. I have to restrain myself from glaring daggers at the woman who plops down at the table right next to me – really? There are at least two dozen other tables scattered across this expansive patio. Why choose that one? I flinch at the shrill shriek of a child, and then scowl at his parents. I cringe at the clusters of people who hover for a time right next to my chair, talking loudly, oblivious to any concerns about personal space.

I shouldn’t be annoyed. After all, I chose to come here, to this public place. If I wanted solitude, I should have stayed at home. But solitude is something I’ve had too much of lately. My one-bedroom bungalow is fine for privacy and quiet concentration, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of inspiration. It doesn’t offer many opportunities to fill the well, to stimulate the senses, to let in new experiences, to promote new ideas. I can work and work and work, but the well of creativity quickly runs dry without new images, new life, to draw from.

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I suppose that’s why I’m here. It’s why I rose early to get my work done so that I could take the afternoon off. So that I could ascend to this beautiful place high upon a hill, so that I could browse artwork and gardens, so that I could look down and marvel at this massive metropolis that I call home.

I didn’t really come here to write. I knew I wouldn’t get much done, though I made a valiant attempt at it. I came here to be. Because on this beautiful September day, the first day of fall, a day which also happens to be the second anniversary of the death of my mother, I told her that I would. I told her that I would try harder to reconnect to my life. To allow myself to gaze with wonder at beautiful things that she would have enjoyed, like the texture of the paint on Van Gogh’s Irises, and the lush vegetation and tranquil streams in the Japanese garden, and the stunning stone architecture that’s everywhere in this place.

I told her that I would, and so I did. Or at least, I tried. I wandered the West Pavilion and lingered for an inordinately long time among the small but stellar collection of Impressionist paintings. I walked to a lookout point and stared down at the city, at the suckers stuck in gridlock on the 405 freeway, grateful that at this moment, I wasn’t one of them. I put away my phone, taking a hiatus from the emails and the texts and the Facebook messages, recognizing all the while how difficult it was for me to do this, and that was exactly the reason why I should.

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I find it nearly impossible to take time outs like this. Time outs just to be with myself and to think and to reflect and to not have to do anything. Chalk it up to my OCD, but relaxing is almost guilt-inducing for me. I always feel like I should be accomplishing something, not just sitting around. Even when I watch a movie, it’s something I’m studying for acting class. Or when I really need to do some deep thinking, I’ll go for a run, because at least I’m getting a workout in at the same time.

But all of this compulsive doing hasn’t done much to help me out of the lost space I’ve inhabited these last couple of years. Checking things off the to-do list – while satisfying – hasn’t done much to help the cavernous, nagging hole in the pit of my stomach. Productivity hasn’t cheered my flagging spirits or healed my persistent heartache. I have been doing a lot, but clearly I have been doing something wrong.

So, on this day, I made a promise to my mom that I would take some time out – even just these few hours – and I would soul search. And I would listen to what my soul said, and I would act.

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I suppose I can’t expect one afternoon to solve all of my problems. After a few hours of taking in beauty, of soaking in the sunshine, of trying just to be, I didn’t feel any clearer than I did before. I didn’t experience any profound epiphanies, and I didn’t feel any closer to knowing ‘what’s next’ for me. But I’m still glad I did it. I’m glad that I allowed myself this time. Mostly because it made me recognize that I need to do more of it; to make space in my life for time like this. To relax. To be still. To imagine. To dream. To take in the world and to wonder about it. And to breathe.

Perhaps knowing that – and doing it – is a start. At least, for now.

Until next time, friends.

50 thoughts on “Time Out.

  1. Been there, done that. Nice piece. I was especially able to relate to the desire – the NEED – for solitude even in a public place. Yes! Patrons who sit RIGHT NEXT to you even though there are plenty of other seats. Great post. I’ll be back. 🙂

  2. I enjoyed your post. It is good to remember that doing and being are equally important. Here’s to being wake every moment our eyes are open. To take time on the people and things around us.
    Abbymorales.com

  3. Completely resonate with the inspiration part. Seclusion is great and often necessary, but one does hit upon the inspiration block after to much time at home. Just as fire needs oxygen, writing needs inspiration. 🙂

  4. That’s some thoughtful writing of your personal experience. It’s good to give yourself those little gifts. And that museum. Awesome place. I only wish I would’ve gone there more than once before I moved away from LA.

  5. Excellent post and all too familiar. I find myself in a constant state of doing and when I’m not I feel the guilt creep in. Sometimes just being is exactly what we need. Good for you to take this much needed time to yourself. It may have helped you more than you realize.

  6. A drifting lost person blog I loved your lack of commitment. It rolled along just like life resolving nothing but caught in the stream of time.
    Lets have somemore from the inside.

  7. I’m glad you took some time for yourself and that you also did it in memory of your mother. I’m so sorry to hear that she’s gone but I’m glad that you are trying your best to put the pieces of your life back together. I lost my grandmother seven months ago and although I’m doing my best to cope with losing her, it’s been difficult. I know that life will never be the same again. Just like you, I’ve been wondering where life will lead me but I’m staying optimistic and I believe that it’s just a matter of time until everything falls into place. I hope you will find your answers soon and that you’ll always find the time to give yourself a break from this unpredictable world that we live in. Take care and God Bless! 🙂

  8. Thank you for the comments everyone! Your kind words mean more to me than I can say. I’m heading off to a writer’s retreat tomorrow but I’ll be back with a new post next week. Thanks so much for reading!

  9. Thank you for your words, i’m still in I stay at home phase, Encouraging words like yours inspire me to do just that. I get lost in the beauty and the security of home. I need to step out and breathe, dream and face fears.

  10. I also sometimes find it valuable when things go hectic, to just sit.and do NOTHING..no talking, no listening to others, no doing something, no reading – just sitting/lying and BEING. THEN only am I able to hear God’s voice.

  11. Great imagery, I felt like I was on the patio also taking it all in. Its sometimes hard for me to take a break becauseiI feel guilty, but I think it’s important to relax like this

  12. Thank you for the glimpse into your world. So many of us have a need for a break in our lives. Differing reasons – same essential desire. I hope you will continue to find some peaceful breaks. It’s something I’m trying too.

  13. I’m sorry for your loss. I will be praying for you. I have the same feel to constantly be doing something productive and have forced myself to start taking one day off a week to just relax and do whatever. I think it’s great you took time off.

  14. Pingback: Ten thousand. | Extra Dry Martini

  15. Pingback: Where I Write: The Getty Center. | Extra Dry Martini

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